"Of all the things that were done during sort of the anti-gay period, the electioneering period engineered by Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich and people like that, DOMA was probably the most offensive. And this, I think most people believe, never should have been signed. The language in this brief is really offensive, and it really is a terrible mistake. I doubt very much the President knew this was coming. I don't think for a minute this represents the President's position. But he is now going to have to dig himself out of this, because people are really upset about this, and they -- not just in the gay and lesbian community, but in the community of people who are interested in equal rights."Also appearing today, as the mainstream media wakes up to this issue: From today's New York Times editorial A Bad Call On Gay Rights:
"You cannot talk about gay Americans the way that gay Americans were talked about in this brief."
"I do think it's bad that this kind of language was used in a Justice Department brief, presumably without the President's knowledge. That is really -- you just can't do that. You can't -- It is true that the Attorney General has the obligation to defend the law of the land whether the law of the land they agree with or not. But there are some times when the law of the land is so noxious -- This is not a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. That's not what this does. If DOMA gets repealed, that does not legalize same-sex marriage in places like Alabama and Texas which may not want to have same-sex marriage. But it does recognize the constitutional reciprocity of contracts from one state to another, and that is a basic Constitutional right."
The brief also maintains that the Defense of Marriage Act represents a “cautious policy of federal neutrality” — an odd assertion since the law clearly discriminates against gay couples. Under the act, same-sex married couples who pay their taxes are ineligible for the sort of federal benefits — such as SocialThe Wall Street Journal's Kate Meckler has today printed an article on this story, Gay Group Slams Policies of President. For an excellent analysis of this article and other implications, read the post just up by John Aravosis at AmericaBlog. Among other things, AmericaBlog is making the link between these policy choices and the decision to have Rick Warren deliver a prayer which marred the Inauguration ceremony, and they are also suggesting lesbian and gay leaders boycott the DNC fundraiser planned for the 40th anniversary of Stonewall.
Security survivors’ payments and joint tax returns — that heterosexual married couples receive.
If the administration does feel compelled to defend the act, it should do so in a less hurtful way. It could have crafted its legal arguments in general terms, as a simple description of where it believes the law now stands. There was no need to resort to specious arguments and inflammatory language to impugn same-sex marriage as an institution.
In times like these, issues like repealing the marriage act can seem like a distraction — or a political liability. But busy calendars and political expediency are no excuse for making one group of Americans wait any longer for equal rights.
The WSJ Journal article concerns the letter just sent by Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign to the President, the text of which may be read here.
So, the question is: Did President Obama allow policy decisions concerning human rights to be made without his knowledge by Bush-holdover dobermans, or has Toto now pulled back the curtain to show us the administration's actual beliefs in action? Either way, I'm having Clinton vu.
(Hat-tip to Alison Bechdel and commenter Alex K at Dykes To Watch Out For for some of these leads.)